Thursday, May 28, 2009

Reports link Asian gaming giant to possible MGM Mirage deal

The gaming world was abuzz with discussion Wednesday on whether Malaysian hotel and gaming giant Genting Bhd is interested in doing a deal with MGM Mirage -- potentially for the U.S. company's stake in a casino in Macau.

Genting and its Resorts World Bhd subsidiary last week said they bought $100 million of debt issued by MGM Mirage -- debt sold as part of MGM Mirage's balance sheet restructuring.

And today it was reported that family members who control Genting have sold about 9 percent of shares in Genting's Singapore subsidiary, Genting Singapore. This raised $425 million, Reuters reported, citing two sources with knowledge of the deal.

One source told Reuters the sale was aimed at boosting the stock's liquidity after its shares fell recently, prompting questions from the Singapore Stock Exchange.

Others speculated the family may be raising cash to invest in MGM Mirage's Macau casino.

MGM Mirage officials couldn't immediately be reached for comment on the news stories out of Asia concerning Genting.

After New Jersey investigators recommended May 19 that MGM Mirage's partner in the Macau casino be declared unsuitable, one of MGM Mirage's options was to sell the stake in the Chinese casino in order to preserve its New Jersey gaming license.

MGM Mirage has other options though, including selling its stake in the Borgata resort in Atlantic City, or challenging the recommendation that Pansy Ho be found unsuitable because of concerns her father's casino empire is tainted by organized crime connections. Nevada regulators previously found Pansy Ho and her sister Daisy Ho to be suitable partners for MGM Mirage.

"It’s not easy for Genting or Resorts World to take over MGM Mirage's venture in Macau because of their investment in Singapore," Ang Kok Heng, chief investment officer at Phillip Capital Management in Kuala Lumpur, told Bloomberg News. "The Singapore government may not agree, so the family has to come in on their own."

Reuters also reported Genting is interested in business opportunities, but is declining comment on whether it's interested in an investment in Las Vegas or Macau.

"The Group does not comment on investors' speculation but will make the necessary public announcements ... as and when appropriate," Genting told stock exchange operator Bursa Malaysia.

In a statement to Bursa Malaysia last week, Genting commented on the purchase of MGM Mirage notes.

"The notes represent a good opportunity for Genting to expand its investment portfolio and enhance returns on its existing cash balances With yield returns in excess of 10 percent, the investment generates an attractive return compared to what is currently attainable in the money markets or in other secured investments regionally especially within the Genting group's core leisure and hospitality industry.

"Further, the notes will be secured against high quality gaming and entertainment assets in Las Vegas, thereby giving downside risk protection to the investment," Genting said.

Genting is best known for its massive Genting Highlands Resort in Malaysia.

Both Sheldon Adelson's Las Vegas Sands Corp., with its Marina Bay Sands; and Genting, with its Resorts World at Sentosa, are building massive gaming-entertainment complexes in Singapore -- complexes that may compete with casinos in both Malaysia and Macau.


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